Jeremiah Vandermeer, Cannabis Culture. Posted on Tuesday, June 9 2009
CANNABIS CULTURE - Controversial drug bill C-15, which includes mandatory minimum jail sentences for small amounts of marijuana, passed the Canadian House of Commons yesterday with the support of both Liberal and Conservative parties. The bill now moves to the Senate for a final vote.
Health experts and activists criticized the bill for including mandatory sentences, which have been proven ineffective and destructive time and again in studies.
Despite a backlash from the NDP and some Liberal members in the days before the final vote, the majority of Liberals supported the bill, which passed with a vote of 194 to 54. The bill needs only Senate support to become law.
"We are now going down a path that the Americans went down 25 years ago," said Kirk Tousaw, Executive Director of the Beyond Prohibition Foundation, "and are now abandoning because of the incredible devastation that these kinds of sentences have caused to their criminal justice system and to the social fabric of their communities."
If passed, the bill would enact a number of minimum sentences for drug crimes, including an automatic six month jail term for as few as five plants. The bill has been lambasted for targeting first time drug offenders and small-time dealers and users, instead of focusing on high-level producers and distributors.
"Mid and upper-level traffickers will get no particular increase in punishment, because a major dealer would already get six months or a year for any kind of trafficking," said Vancouver marijuana activist (and CC editor) Marc Emery. "What we’re going to see is people who wouldn’t normally go to jail, they’re going to be the people affected. Largely young people in schoolyards - because if you are dealing around a school, it’s an enhanced penalty. The enhanced penalties of six months, a year, two years, are going to affect, almost exclusively, people under the age of twenty-five."
If passed, the bill will undoubtedly fill Canada's already overtaxed prison system with non-violent offenders, and demand more police for proper enforcement.